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As soon as he wakes up, Zhongli finds his breath stuttering with a noticeable hollowness in his chest that he cannot quite describe. 

Briefly, he supposes it is merely the effect of his gnosis being taken. It would explain the growing chasm right next to his heart after all, but even with the core of his divinity gone, there still remains a vibrant energy coursing through his veins that buzzes with a level of excitement. It’s a nagging feeling; it is the very thing that keeps him awake at night. Zhongli exhales, nice and slow, and allows the back of his head to press against the pillows he had propped up against the table. His hair is free from its usual hold and it spills across his shoulders in ribbons of black and gold, tickling his bare forearms where they lay folded across his lap.

He stretches his legs across the blankets he’s laid beneath him and wiggles his toes, flexes his fingers, twitches his nose. The wind around him responds in kind. Warm Liyuan air wafts through the room at the inn as the sun begins to set, casting an orange glow across the walls to greet the former archon. Zhongli feels himself sink into the floor, melting into the plush pillows, and revels in the way he is being held down firmly by the weight in his lap that belongs to his beloved.

He’s been tired these days. 

Only a week had passed after the incident with Osial and his official retirement as the Archon of Geo. Adjusting so far has been strange, and eerily enough, rather easy. He really had expected more of a challenging transition, given that he had been amongst the gods for multiple millennia. The few years he spent in Liyue as a mortal simply didn’t hold a flame to the years he spent integrated in humanity as the mighty Rex Lapis. Though oddly enough, despite the new creaking in his joints and the mild back pain he never quite felt until now, he’s become rather fond of the quaint life he subconsciously built while he was living amongst his people. 

And, well, Ajax’s presence made adjusting rather painless. The Harbinger staying by his side somehow made it easier to to cope with the gaping void in his chest. Besides, knowing that Ajax had a baffling duality at home in comparison to the battlefield had eased Zhongli’s qualms with adjusting, even if the difference was minute.

There is peace in solidarity, after all.

Speaking of which, Ajax makes himself known by rolling over and shuffling closer, burying his face in his abdomen and sighing. The ex-Archon cracks an eye open and looks down at the smattering of red hair against his stomach. He can’t help but smile at the sight. 

“Ajax,” he calls, voice a deep rumble from his temporary slumber, “it’s getting late. If you continue napping, you’ll have a hard time sleeping tonight.” He raises a hand to pet through the unruly auburn head of hair.

He’s answered with unintelligible mumbling, and the vibrations of Ajax’s voice tickles his stomach.

“What?” He breathes out a laugh, straining his ears to listen.

“Xiansheng, I don’t want to get up,” Ajax whines as he props his chin against Zhongli’s stomach. He wriggles closer, moving up higher in his lap until his face is pressed up against his chest. Zhongli cradles the back of his head lovingly and softly runs a bare hand through ginger locks. He looks at Ajax with an incredible level of fondness, trying to memorize the way his sleepy eyes blink slowly, and the way his nose scrunches as he tries to wake up. He has to remember these moments— he needs to.

“You must, baobei, ” Zhongli tugs on his hair gently, “also because I am getting quite hungry.”

Ajax makes a noise of indignance against him. The ginger looks up, ready to protest, but abruptly halts. 

He’s met with a sight he isn’t prepared to see.

His eyes widened comically as Ajax stared at him like he had grown a second head, cerulean eyes tracing his every feature as if it were his first time ever seeing him. Any noise or complaint of being woken up dies on his lips as he’s suddenly speechless, any and all vocabulary suddenly void. Zhongli’s brows furrowed in confusion,eyes grazing over Ajax’s features to pinpoint the source of his bewilderment

“Is everything okay?” He voices worriedly.

“Xiansheng, you’re…” the ginger trails off breathlessly, “by the Gods, you’re beautiful.”

Ajax watches him carefully, dissecting him with curious eyes as if the latter were under a microscope. The sheer intensity of his gaze almost makes Zhongli shrink away.

Instead, Zhongli sputters. “Well, I am flattered, truly, but--”

“Zhongli,” Ajax all but hisses. He brings a deft finger up to Zhongli’s hair, but doesn’t quite stop at his fringe. He reaches up, up, up and—

Ah. 

Zhongli knows where this is going. 

This isn’t the first time this has happened. 

Sometimes, in moments where Zhongli finds himself surrendering to the harmonic bliss that surrounds him, he’ll allow himself to lose control over his mortal form and let some of his draconic features shine through. Some days his horns will make an appearance, and other times his scales will begin to blossom across what once was human skin. Tonight, his horns make themselves present, and his eyes have shifted, too. Dark pupils have narrowed significantly into slits; what should be a daunting experience for Ajax is met with a childlike curiosity and fascination instead.

“Can I…” Ajax starts tentatively. His eyes are blown so wide, and they glimmer with eagerness and a silent joy that is akin to a child being gifted sweets. Zhongli chuckles, nodding his head in silent affirmation. He bows his head slightly to allow his lover to trail across the divine horns.

The pads of Ajax’s fingers hesitantly make contact with the horns stemming from the crown of his head. They’re beautiful; they glow as if they’re dipped in melted mora, pulsing brightly and casting a dim light across Ajax’s pale skin. His palm hovers over the length of the extension to feel the positive thrum of ethereal energy. They’re quite long, the Harbinger notes as Ajax gently trails his index finger along the curve of a horn. They don’t stick straight up, though. Instead, they bow backwards charmingly until it tapers off midway toward the back of Zhongli’s head.

Beautiful.

“You’re…” he breathes, “I’ve never seen…”

“It has been a long time since I last let myself truly relax into this form,” he explains albeit briefly.

Ajax’s eyes flicker back down to his face as Zhongli’s voice snaps him out of his reverie. He’s met with eyes glowing bright as cor lapis, pupils almost narrowed into slits, and a few stray ebony scales. His jaw seems stronger, too, broader somehow, and his cheekbones have become more defined. He still looks like his beloved Zhongli, just… different. It made Ajax wonder if this was Zhongli or Rex Lapis.

“Woah…” he comments intelligently.

Once again with the inquisitiveness of a child, Ajax reaches out to poke at the scales blooming across Zhongli’s skin. The scales are hard— that much he expected— but he hadn’t expected how warm they would be. Oddly enough, he had thought that scales would be cool to the touch. Zhongli’s scales are warm, almost warmer than human skin. The ex-Archon tuts. 

“My apologies,” he breaks the silence, “I was not aware that this much of me was visible—“

“Why are you apologizing?” Ajax demands, eyes darting up to his horns once more before locking onto his golden ones. “You’re beautiful, Xiansheng. I had no idea you could even do this.”

“Frankly, I am surprised, too,” Zhongli speaks honestly. Ajax looks at him, stunned. “I didn’t think this could happen without my gnosis. But life has been full of surprises lately, it seems.”

“What else could you do?” Ajax asks excitedly while his hands drop back into his lap. He shifts to where he is sitting up and laying on his side to curl around the latter, and rests against the incline of Zhongli’s body comfortably. They were still pressed against each other impossibly close, legs intertwining across the plush sheets on the floor. Zhongli’s head presses against the pillow behind him, and Ajax stares at the horn-shaped indent in the cushion inquisitively. Zhongli is filled with an abrupt surge of affection at the sight. It has been a long time since someone looked at him with such fascination in this form. “Without your gnosis, I mean. Obviously you could do a lot with it.”

“I still have yet to see, Ajax, as it’s only been a week since I’ve lost it,” Zhongli murmurs. He brushes a stray strand of hair away from Ajax’s forehead. He presses the pad of his thumb against the growing frown lines developing between the ginger’s eyebrows. “How are you already developing wrinkles? You are still so young.”

“Mean!” Ajax pulls away, rubbing at the spot with the back of his hand. “Says the one who is six thousand years old! In fact I’m surprised you don’t have any wrinkles. Seriously, I’ve never even see you apply moisturizer before and—“

“Ajax,” Zhongli interrupts. 

This time, it’s his turn to stare at Ajax with astonishment. His eyes, bright and golden, burn a hole through the spot on Ajax’s forehead where Zhongli was just poking at. The latter can’t help but strain to look up as if he could catch a glimpse of what the half-dragon was looking at. Cross-eyed, he just looked ridiculous trying to see his own forehead. He was so confused. 

“What, what?” Ajax asks anxiously. Zhongli stares at him still, wordlessly reaching up to touch him again. The dragon’s eyes soften, brushing a knuckle right across Ajax’s cheekbone, right underneath a blue eye. The Harbinger sees, then, the gold that shimmers right beneath his vision. The expression that forms across Zhongli’s face is nothing short of enamored, astonished, and downright entranced.

Zhongli is disgustingly in love.

“Is your hand glowing?” he asks. Zhongli shakes his head as if he were listening, but not quite understanding. His eyes trail across Ajax’s face and hyper focuses on the path that his hand takes more than anything else. He continues drawing lazy patterns across Ajax’s cheek, and the gold seems to shine brighter. Ajax remains deathly still.

“Xiansheng, what is going on?” 

“Your skin,” he begins slowly, voice lowered into a hush. Ajax has to strain to listen to him. “It seems to turn to gold where I touch.”

“W-what?” Ajax scrambles for Zhongli’s wrist, but the ex-Archon places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. 

“It’s temporary, love, do not fret. The spot on your forehead has already disappeared.” 

“Wait, wait, I want to see!” Ajax demands, suddenly sitting up straight. Zhongli follows suit and corrects his posture, holding his palm out as an invitation. 

“Give me your hand,” he commands gently. The latter complies and places the back of his hand in the warmth of Zhongli’s own palm. 

The ex-Archon uses the tip of his finger to trace patterns into his hand, and the skin underneath responds immediately to the touch. It glows an alluring shade of gold that has Ajax blinking away the spots that form in his eyes from the brightness. And although it goes away as quickly as it comes, it still leaves a tingling feeling across his skin as it disappears. His palm buzzes anew at the feeling. Zhongli doesn’t so much as flinch at the brightness, though and he continues tracing letters, characters, symbols he’s never seen before, into the palm of Ajax’s hand. The ginger shivers at the touch. It’s so intimate— it’s too intimate— he feels like he’s going to pass out. He can feel an energy so divine being pressed into the palm of his hand, sinking in through his skin and spilling into his bloodstream. Ajax’s heart beat picks up, a newfound energy coursing through his veins. 

It is a blessing that no one could ever even imagine receiving from Rex Lapis himself. 

Gnosis or not, the being before him was a deity too precious to be touching a soul as blackened as Ajax’s. Yet here he was, accepting such a heavenly gift from Teyvat’s oldest god like the greedy mortal he was. 

Ajax almost wants to pull away, intimidated by Zhongli’s true divine nature, but it is his pure curiosity that keeps him in place.

Zhongli’s finger continues his trail up the Harbinger’s arm, and this time, he’s drawing flower petals that bloom from thin branches. They encroach upon the inside of his forearm, streaming along his veins as Zhongli draws petal after petal. The half-dragon is quick— quicker than the rate in which the golden lines disappear. He sketches the design of his flowers rapidly across his skin all while maintaining his gentle hold on Ajax.

The human canvas has no choice but to sit and watch with awe as the design seemingly comes to life. Blue eyes follow gold, attracted like a moth to a flame, and Ajax is simply unable to look away from the art Zhongli creates on his skin of all things. Ajax’s skin— freckled and marred by years of fighting— is being turned into a work of art made for his eyes, and his eyes alone. 

Once again, Zhongli has done what has felt like the impossible. 

But of course, all good things come to an end, and Zhongli stops. With a flick of his wrist, he tapers the tip of the last petal he draws before withdrawing his hand entirely. Ajax watches with the same level of fascination as the golden strokes vanish in the order that they were drawn as if they were never even there. Ajax’s skin tingles regardless of their presence. 

“Any chance you knew you could do that?” he speaks after awhile, voice uncharacteristically quiet, pensive. The ginger looks up at him then.

“No,” Zhongli answers, eyes flickering back up to him. “But to be honest with you, I do not wish to stop.”

Ajax’s eyes widen at the statement. “What do you mean—“

Zhongli’s hands grip at Ajax’s hips as he pushes him backwards. He hadn’t noticed it before, but it is only when Zhongli squeezes around the meat of his hips that he realizes that the latter has claws.

The Harbinger gasps, arms shooting out to wrap around his neck for stability. Zhongli crowds him in an instant as soon as Ajax’s back hits the floor. He noses at his neck to pepper kisses along the line of his jugular and watches with dilated eyes as a trail of gold is left behind where his lips once were. The feeling that blossoms in his chest can only be described as some primal satisfaction as Ajax is marked with his stamp of gold. The sight of it causes the dormant dragon within him to stir awake. 

“I cannot help but wonder,” Zhongli speaks quietly, “if your skin would turn to gold while touching all parts of me.” His voice drops an entire octave. If it was deep before, it was even deeper now, closer to a purr than anything. It makes Ajax dizzy. The sound rumbles through his chest, making Ajax shiver at the noise.

Ajax’s breath stutters. “Oh,” is all he manages to say.

“If you would indulge my curiosity so kindly,” Zhongli begins, voice breathy; desperate, as if he were holding back, “I’d like to see you glow in many other places.”

“Oh my god,” Ajax blushes a furious red, “you have such a way with words, Xiansheng! And just do me already, you’ve never had to ask before!”

The dragon huffs, “I’m just asking because in this form, I might be… slightly different in some places.” Zhongli’s ears burn red.

“Oh my god, ” Ajax all but sobs, “shut up and get inside me old man, make me glow, or whatever.”

Zhongli grins at the invitation and oh fuck he has fangs, of course he has fangs—

“As you wish.”

Ajax undeniably does a lot more than just glow that night. In fact, he gets so much more than what he initially bargained for, and the surplus of affection and lust has his thighs trembling beneath Zhongli. The sun begins to set, but the darkness that befalls the room matters naught when Ajax is used as a lamp every time Zhongli touches him. Gods above, does he touch him.

When Zhongli kisses him, his head spins a little more. When clawed hands squeeze at his waist and almost break skin, his heart beats a little faster. When one, then two, then three oiled fingers slip past the tight rim of muscle with care and makes him grind his hips down impatiently, his breaths come a little shorter. And when Zhongli finally, finally slides in and makes him forget his own name, Ajax can’t help the broken moan that flies past his lips when he bottoms out. His vision blurs when Zhongli’s cock fills him to the brim mercilessly. 

It’s too much.

It’s not enough.

Evidently, Zhongli wasn’t kidding when he said he was built a little different. 

They probably needed to gloss over the definition of a little later tonight when the half-dragon was finished carving a path inside him because apparently, a little meant an additional three whole inches in length and half an inch in girth. The newfound length brushes past places in Ajax’s body he never even knew existed, scratching an itch he wasn’t aware he had. 

Oh, but he loves it. Ajax feels like he can taste him— feel him in the back of his throat with Zhongli buried so deep inside him.

In less than an hour, Zhongli demolishes vanilla sex for him.

He’s never going back to his ways of the past.

Was Ajax expecting to be taking dragon cock at nine at night when he was supposed to be having dinner? No. Was he going to take it anyway? Absolutely. The burn was just too good, and the fact that each time he blinked, he was met with the sight of a beautiful man hunched over him made it all the more delicious. In retrospect, Ajax was faring just fine. Aside from the stretch he quickly adjusted to, he felt good. Ridiculously good. He had his legs wrapped tightly around Zhongli’s waist and his hands tugging at his loose locks. The amber ends glow brighter at every pull and Ajax just holds onto the strands for comfort at this point.

Zhongli, on the other hand, had his eyes shut and was currently breathing hard through his nose. 

“Xiansheng?” Ajax calls tentatively. He reaches a hand out to cup Zhongli’s cheek, and almost gets distracted by the luminance his hand emits as soon as he makes contact. 

“I’m alright,” Zhongli says through gritted teeth, “I’m having trouble… regaining composure, is all.”

“What do you mean?” Ajax gasps when Zhongli’s hips flex and fucks him with a few inches.

“You…” he struggles, “are very tight. My senses are heightened in this form.” He manages to get out. It’s a miracle he can even speak when the Harbinger below him is contracting wildly around him without abandon. Intentional or not, it’s taking everything within the dragon to resist thoroughly wrecking him just yet.

Ajax smiles wickedly, and squeezes hard around him with purpose. Zhongli hisses, biting down unforgivingly on Ajax’s shoulder. His fangs break skin, but the ginger doesn’t even flinch. 

“Let me on top,” he says instead, “I can set the pace.”

“That might be difficult,” Zhongli begins tentatively, “laying on my back may not be an option at the moment.”

“What? Why— oh, holy fuck.”

When Ajax glances down between them, he is immediately greeted with something he hadn’t expected to see. Lo and behold, a long, serpentine tail is laid out across the blankets and thumps once, twice, happily in place. It’s thicker at the base where it forms near Zhongli’s body, and smoothly tapers out until the end is covered in silky, golden locks. Ajax swears it sparkles. The hair flows so elegantly across their floor, Ajax almost has the urge to reach out and run his fingers through it. He would, if he wasn’t currently impaled and unable to move. 

“... I apologize—“

“That is so hot,” Ajax almost weeps. “Please for the love of all Archons, Zhongli, Morax, I’m begging— ah!

The lilt in his voice as he begs, the way he whines the long lost name with no knowledge of just how sacred it is— it has Zhongli moving before he can register what he’s doing.

Zhongli’s hips pull backwards before slamming home. He throws all caution to the wind and lets himself move recklessly without abandon because clearly, Ajax can handle it. He fucks him with manners that he hasn’t been able to express in centuries and it does nothing to aid his descent into his old, feral ways. Ajax writhes beneath him and takes what he is given with gratitude, praying with breathless gasps and broken moans. Every noise that leaves his throat has Zhongli moving desperately for more. The light between them glows brighter, almost impossibly so, to where Ajax has to squeeze his eyes shut.

The ex-Archon cups the backs of the ginger’s thighs and hauls his legs up, bending them toward Ajax’s chest and allowing him even deeper access into his body. 

“Fuck,” he curses. “You feel amazing. Absolutely divine. Celestia , Ajax, you take me so well.” He babbles as he grinds into him. 

“Zhongli!” Ajax gasps, caught off guard by Zhongli’s sudden potty mouth. 

“So good,” he continues anyway, “so fucking good for me.” Zhongli uses the leverage he has on Ajax’s thighs to spread his legs where they’re pressed against his chest, creating an opening so that he has room to crowd the ginger's space once more.

Ajax meets him halfway and pulls him into a greedy kiss that swallows both of their moans.

There's a moment where Zhongli grinds into him just right that sends Ajax crashing; his head is thrown back when he's all but forced to see stars, and his fingers scrabble to claw at Zhongli's skin for support. His back arches high off the bed and the ex-Archon uses the space to wrap a solid arm around Ajax’s lithe waist. He takes advantage of the bared neck in front of him and immediately noses at his pulse point, licking over the skin before sucking the flesh between his teeth. 

“More,” Ajax gasps, “please—“

Zhongli shuts him up by battering into his prostate unforgivingly. Ajax sobs, unprepared for the onslaught of pleasure that the motion brought with it. 

“Zhongli— “ he whines.

“I’m here,” the latter coos, breath hot on the shell of his ear, “I’m here, beautiful,” he speaks as he drives his hips forward once more. 

Ajax once to protest because Zhongli is the beautiful one here. The work of art that the Harbinger was turned into tonight was merely fabricated— a byproduct of Zhongli’s own godliness and grace. Ajax was just Ajax. But right now? It didn’t matter. Not when Zhongli touched him like he was made of gold, or held him like he was the finest treasure to be found. Zhongli made him feel divine, even if that wasn’t the case at all. It made him feel like he could be something better, something brighter. 

They lose track of time in the throes of their own pleasure. At some point, the sun fully sets, but Zhongli continues to shove him down into the sheets relentlessly. Ajax on the other hand, takes and continues to surprise Zhongli with his growing responsiveness. He takes and takes and Zhongli feels like he has no choice but to continue giving. The dance between them is elegant as much as it is animalistic, and Ajax loves it.

Zhongli bites down on his neck slightly, flexes his hips, and the breaking of Ajax’s pale skin and the relentless pressure against his neck has the ginger spilling between the tight press of their bodies and painting both of their chests white.

He comes with a wail at the onslaught of pain. 

A dragon’s fangs, apparently, are by no means gentle and tear into the sensitive skin on his neck with ease. Yet, the blinding pain that sears through Ajax’s body sends him tumbling nonetheless. Zhongli fucks him through his orgasm, rutting against him until he tips over at the sound of Ajax's pitiful, overstimulated cries. He shudders as he empties into him, Ajax’s relentless squeezing serves to milk him completely until they’re both wrung out and exhausted. Zhongli breathes hard where his face is pressed into his neck. 

They lay there for a moment; Zhongli tries to get his breathing under control, and Ajax tries to focus his vision after it had blurred during his climax. The ginger rakes his nails along Zhongli’s sweaty back, and the sensation brings them both back down from their high. Their breaths are heavy and labored, and Ajax can’t help the chuckle that leaves his lips when he finally calms down, because holy shit. He’s going to want to do that every night, now.

Sometime amidst their fun, the golden glow had dimmed until it all but disappeared. 

"You suck," Ajax gasps after a moment, "you just ruined vanilla sex for me."

Zhongli snorts. "I don't suppose you expect me to morph every time you want to be intimate?"

Ajax's silence speaks volumes. It’s a silent confirmation. The latter looks up, disgruntled. He looks so unamused, brows furrowed and everything, it makes Ajax chuckle and kiss the frown away. 

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding, Xiansheng," he waves him off, "the only thing I expect from you right now is for you to pull out, oh my god Zhongli, get out of me. You're like those huge dogs that think they can fit in your lap! You're not exactly small, mister Rex Lapis!" 

"Oh, yes, my apologies," Zhongli murmurs. He presses a light kiss to Ajax's freckled shoulder before sliding out, muttering a quiet apology when he winces. He rolls off of Ajax and lays on his back next to him, so they're both staring up at the ceiling. His tail is gone and so are his horns, so he can finally lay on his back comfortably. Zhongli reaches for his hand and intertwines their fingers. He gets a squeeze in response.

“Say, Xiansheng,” Ajax starts. “Have you ever been able to do that before?” 

Zhongli looks at him, silently asking him to elaborate. His skin glows with a thin layer of sweat.

“Turn someone’s skin to gold, I mean. With something as simple as touch, too. Has that ever happened?” 

“No,” he answers simply, “I believe this was the first occurrence in my six thousand years of being alive.”

Ajax hums. “So I’m not like. Going to die or anything, right?”

“Why would you die, baobei?” Zhongli chuckles, “you act as if I injected poison into your bloodstream.”

Ajax lets out an indignant squawk. “I! Am still kind of new to the whole dating a god thing! I don’t know what special abilities you adepti hold. I am a mere mortal, after all!”

“That you are.” The reminder has Zhongli looking at him with sudden sadness, “you will be okay though, I promise.”

Ajax hums and offers a small, resigned smile before letting his eyes slide shut. He gave into the exhaustion, it seems.

He’s already dozing off, and his head is tipping slightly to the left. Ajax has all but slumped into the comforters beneath him, his chest rising and falling with each soft breath he takes. Zhongli’s mildly aware that he’s going to have to wake him to clean him up in a few minutes, though, but he allows his lover to rest for a moment. The whirring void in his chest— the one that constantly reminded him of his lost power— finally, finally settles.

Zhongli watches with fascination as the human in front of him continues to glow. The gold is gone, though. Zhongli has shifted back into his mortal form and skin to skin contact no longer summons the bright golden light that was there before. 

Still, Ajax’s skin seems to glow a little brighter than usual. His cheeks are tinted pink and his lips are slightly parted, still plump and swollen from his bruising kisses. Zhongli swears he can see a light blue aura surrounding the lines of Ajax’s body. His chest fills with something warm and pleasant at the sight; it is a feeling that is thick like the syrup that runs through the veins of Liyue’s trees. It trickles throughout his entire body, down into his core, down his legs and to his arms, breathing life into a body he once thought was… well, empty. 

Tonight has proven that Zhongli no longer feels empty. He smiles fondly.

For those that live too long, the friends of days gone by and scenes from their adventures live on in their memories. As such, I have no regrets in meeting you, Ajax. Should the day ever come that we are not together, you will continue to shine like gold in my memories.